The SAP Business Technology Platform offers simple and efficient ways of integrating SAP or third-party software into existing systems and extending their functionality. The PaaS solution makes it easy to connect SAP applications and adapt them to your own requirements—without time-consuming software development.
Text: Felix Raymann, Image: istock, 31
The SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) is replacing the previous SAP Cloud Platform. As a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), it forms a uniform technology basis for all SAP applications and their integration into surrounding systems. External applications can also be integrated via the platform—even those based on modern technologies such as IoT, machine learning or blockchain. In addition, the functionality of SAP solutions can be easily expanded. No infrastructure of your own is necessary for the use of the BTP, and there are neither initial investments nor high administrative expenses. Two important services of the platform are the SAP Integration Suite and the SAP Extension Suite.
The SAP Integration Suite serves as the integration layer of the BTP to connect applications and systems with each other—without having to deal with complex interfaces and tedious compatibility problems. Practice shows that the solution significantly accelerates integrations into SAP systems thanks to standardised connectors and templates. “Integrations are a big issue in every SAP project—especially if the customer is using different SAP solutions or if, for example, a CX cloud solution is to be connected to the ERP of a third-party provider,” says Mark Eichmann, Head of SAP CX Solutions at Swisscom. Many customers are very concerned that there could be difficulties with the integration into third-party systems. “But even if no other SAP solutions are used in the company, I can always assure customers that it is absolutely no problem to expand the existing IT landscape with the SAP CX solutions.”
The customer-related data of the CX software unfolds its full potential when all information from different sources can be connected and used together with the rest of the company data. Patrick Büschi, SAP CX Chief Solution Architect at Swisscom, knows the benefits that the Integration Suite offers for the SAP Customer Experience from various projects. For a Swiss retailer, for example, an innovative shopping app had to be introduced in the shortest possible time. “For this project, we had to connect various SAP applications with each other and integrate the app developed by the customer as an ordering and payment option,” Patrick Büschi explains. An SAP ERP was also involved, as were the CX solutions SAP Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Customer Data Cloud. The decision to rely on the SAP Integration Suite based on SAP BTP saved an enormous amount of effort. “Thanks to standard integrations, we were able to integrate the SAP systems quickly and easily. Neither complex interfaces nor changes to the core systems were necessary,” explains Patrick Büschi.
But the SAP Business Technology Platform with the Integration Suite is not only suitable for large projects. For example, it was possible to automate the processes in the digital asset management of a fashion online retailer in a simple way, which greatly reduced the effort required from several employees involved. “Immediately after the latest articles are photographed in weekly photo shootings, they are automatically transferred to a database and from there to the SAP Commerce Cloud, where they are placed in the right location in the online catalogue,” says Patrick Büschi.
The Data Hub is still used for integrations in SAP environments. However, its possibilities are very limited compared to the more modern SAP Integration Suite. “Specially developed interfaces or middleware are often necessary to connect a CX solution to an ERP, for example,” says Patrick Büschi. The templates provided by SAP for integration via Data Hub are based on XML files and Java code. Adapting them to customer-specific needs is correspondingly time-consuming. “The integrations with the Data Hub are complex, require a lot of know how, and customers repeatedly report problems and process failures,” says Patrick Büschi.
Thanks to integration flows (iFlows), adjustments to the standard integrations provided by SAP are possible without developer skills. Experienced users can adapt individual integration steps themselves via a graphical interface, change mappings and even add new process steps or remove those that are not required.
Another advantage of the Integration Suite is that it offers comprehensive monitoring with which errors can be found immediately and thus remedied quickly. “In contrast, the Data Hub is a true black box solution where you usually don’t know why the prices in the online shop are missing or the customer data isn’t arriving in the ERP,” says Patrick Büschi. “Because of these advantages and the fact that the Data Hub is also not being further developed, we strongly advise our customers to switch from the Data Hub to the SAP Integration Suite.”
The SAP Extension Suite is used for application development and the extension of SAP software solutions on the SAP Business Technology Platform. By using pre-configured tools, you can extend or adapt applications to your own business logic. “Where the standard functions do not fit, the Extension Suite makes it easy to develop customised solutions without touching the core of the software,” explains Patrick Büschi. Thanks to this approach, software updates and upgrades are also possible without risks, for example.
For more extensive changes, additional functionalities and individual in-house developments can be generated with the help of extensions. Patrick Büschi also gives an example for this: “An app for dynamic pricing had to be integrated for a customer, and it calculates prices individually per customer in real-time according to the requirements of the B2B online platform. The external application generates the prices based on various parameters such as discounts, company size, margins, location, etc. for the SAP Commerce Cloud, i.e. for the online shop. Instead of integrating this app in a complicated way via interfaces, the application runs on the Business Technology Platform—including the back end and the entire logic. This way, the app itself remains lean and flexible.” To ensure that the prices are also available at the checkout in over-the-counter sales, for example, a development on the SAP Extension Suite is possible, and it can be connected to any system.
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